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Rebels turned back at Milliken’s Bend

A Confederate attempt to rescue Vicksburg and a Rebel garrison held back by Union forces to the east of the city fails when Union troops turn back the attack at the Battle of Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana. By late May 1863, Union General Ulysses S. Grant had surrounded Vicksburg, the last major Confederate possession on the Mississippi River. In one of the more remarkable campaigns of the war, Grant had slipped his army around the city, dove toward the middle of Mississippi, and then bottled up Vicksburg, Mississippi, from the east. He held off one Confederate army while pinning another, commanded by John C. Pemberton, in the city. Grant then laid siege and waited for surrender.

Since Grant’s army was holding off Rebel forces to the east of Vicksburg, the Confederates would have to come from across the Mississippi to stage a rescue attempt. General Edmund Kirby Smith, commander of the South’s Trans-Mississippi Department, dispatched a force under Richard Taylor to attack Federal supply lines on the western side of the river. Taylor aimed the assault at Milliken’s Bend, once a key supply point for the Union forces, just north of Vicksburg. Unfortunately for the Confederates, the Yankees had already moved the supply point several miles away.

Before dawn on June 7, the advancing Confederates encountered Union pickets and began driving them back toward the river. But once the Yankee defenders were backed up to the Mississippi, Union gunboats began blasting the Rebels with grapeshot and canister. The Confederates withdrew, while Federal gunboats broke up nearby attacks before they could materialize.

Confederate losses stood at 44 killed, 131 wounded, and 10 missing; the Union suffered much heavier losses: 101 killed, 285 wounded, and 266 missing. Hardest hit were the newly formed African-American regiments that were made up of freed slaves from captured areas in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The 9th Louisiana lost 45 percent of its force.

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